Ljubljana – Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, who, “in the post-election euphoria of 2020”, decided to call an early general election in two years’ time, would not have done so if he had known the problems that awaited him. Among them is Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Borut Šuklje, a former diplomat and expert on the Western Balkans, told the STA.
In the June 2020 parliamentary election in Serbia, which the opposition boycotted citing the results were predetermined, Vučić’s party won an absolute majority of votes, 188 out of 250 seats, Šuklje said.
“Only two, almost negligible, details disturbed the celebrations. Vučić left the party relatively quickly, perhaps even too quickly, and announced at the same time that the new government would be formed within the time frame as set down by the law.
“But the question of why, with an absolute parliamentary majority, he would need four months to form a government of his own choosing somehow remained ignored that evening.”
Pro-Vučić media outlets, of which there are many in Serbia, lauded him, claiming that he could have secured even a greater victory if all of his party members had been even more committed in campaign efforts, said Šuklje.
But then in October, Vučić announced he would call an early parliamentary election in 2022, combined with presidential and Belgrade City Assembly elections. He was confident of increasing his hold on power, the pundit noted.
Šuklje considers that this made the work of the Serbian government and ministries irrelevant and turned the parliament into a gathering place for Vučić’s supporters and a place to strive to destroy any memory of the opposition. The state institutions were rendered even more powerless since the president was making decisions on everything.
But what Vučić failed to see at the time was that he was still two years away from 2022. He would not have announced an early election if he had known the problems that awaited him, including the possibility of the opposition parties coming up with a different way of organising and protests by dissatisfied citizens.
Then there is another potential problem in Vučić’s future, the resentment-laced relationship between Vučić and his coalition partner Ivica Dačić, who was relegated to “being parliamentary speaker, a completely irrelevant position in Vučić’s Serbia”.
Dačić is a calculating politician who can also wait. This time for Vučić’s slip-ups that will enable Dačić to set the price of his coalition cooperation again, Šuklje said.
But the Serbian president could not have foreseen the third problem. Vučić, who has kept highlighting his great and binding friendship with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin could not have known that “the Russian monarch would decide to wage a new war and that this time he would demand the support of his admirers”.
Just before the April election, on 28 February, Nikolai Patrushev, Putin’s adviser and secretary of Russia’s Security Council, will visit Belgrade, very likely to demand Serbia’s support in return for Russia’s so far, the political analyst said.
Russia will want Serbia to recognise separatist regions Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine and to step up cooperation in the Russian operation to de-Europeanise Bosnia and Herzegovina and prevent the countries of the Western Balkan region from moving even closer to NATO.
Šuklje also noted that the European Commission’s report of last October stated that Serbia, as a candidate for EU membership, must increase its alignment with the EU’s foreign policy. From today’s perspective that means it is also obliged to support EU sanctions against Russia and to recognise the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Russia’s response to Serbia’s potential siding with the EU and US on this would cause unease. Russia would radically raise the price of gas and other energy products and tell their supporters in Serbia that they have been betrayed by Vučić, Šuklje believes.
Nevertheless, it would be wrong to consider the outcome of the upcoming election in Serbia to be uncertain, he added.
“Vučić will be re-elected as president and he will also secure a relative victory in the parliamentary election. But never again like he did in 2020. And he may lose the most important city, Belgrade,” Šuklje said.